Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Month

Yesterday was one month since my father passed away.  I was fairly occupied for most of the day, so I didn't get caught up in excessive ponderings about what should or could have been.  I marked the date down and again realized the potential of relief that can come when someone has been sick for a while.  My approach towards yesterday was very different than my approach had been just a month after my mother died.

In the past month, there have been numerous times that I reached for my phone to call and check on Dad.  I wanted to hear his voice and to assure him that everything was okay with me.  I wanted to know that he hadn't fallen or had any other mishaps.  But all of that was unnecessary.  He's gone.

Time can be both our friend and our enemy.  When we need more of it, it seems that it works against us as a foe rather than an ally.  When we work with it, it can be a constant companion to us, helping us along the way, pushing us towards promptness and responsibility.

This morning I read a quote which has stuck with me from Mark Batterson.  He wrote, "Hurry kills everything from compassion to creativity."  Every day, that lesson becomes more and more apparent to me.  When I am in a hurry, my patience runs thin, my attitude worsens as I find myself rushing to get done what I need to get done, regardless of who is in my way.  In fact, if you're in my way, you will most likely get run over.

This lesson become so readily apparent to me over the last year or so spent with my father.  I could never visit him while in a rush.  I could never take him out or engage him in conversation if I had to quickly move on to the next thing.  His pace slowed down which subsequently slowed me down.  And I think that was really good for me.  It helped me to realize what was important.

Of course, today, we can easily accomplish multiple things at once as we multitask our way through life with smartphones, tablets, and other technological resources.  Not only is there a need for us to slow down but also to intentionally disengage.  This is a point of growth in my life, a place that needs some focus.  It's too easy to "just take a second" and check my email or social media, yet what am I missing in the midst of those "seconds" that I am away.

Time is not moving backwards.  We can't turn back the clock.  I can't have my father back, but I am grateful for the many life lessons that I learned from him, directly and indirectly.  "Ruthlessly eliminating hurry" is a noble task to undertake, but it needs consistency and accountability as well.

My dad is gone and I miss him terribly, but the lessons that I have learned can help to keep his legacy and memory alive.  Months will pass, anniversaries will creep up, and I will deal with them all.  Remembering all that I have learned will bring a smile to my face as I realize that even out of darkness, light can come.  In the midst of sorrow and pain and mourning, new days will rise.  From out of the ashes, like a phoenix, rises life.  How can I make sure to live into that legacy?  Let those lessons not have been learned in vain.

Friday, May 17, 2013


I remember when my second child was born.  It had been two years since our first was born and we had spent those two years as a family of three, getting used to each other, learning how to live as a unit, and my wife and I gave all of our attention to our son.  There was no one else to infringe upon his time with us.  He had 100% of us.

Then, our second son came along.  While my first son wasn't angry, or at least didn't act it, he also didn't pay any mind to his new little brother.  He ignored him.  Over time, he began to realize that the time which he had easily monopolized had to be shared.  He was no longer #1.  The first time he really paid any attention to his little brother, my wife had his little brother in the swing and my oldest just stopped, stared at him, and began to laugh hysterically.  We captured the moment on video, which is fairly priceless.  That was the beginning of their relationship together.

From a biblical perspective, there are plenty of advantages to being the firstborn.  The firstborn had the lion's share of inheritance, many times being the double portion.  The inheritance would extend beyond simply finances as well, the firstborn would most likely carry on the family name and become the patriarch after the death of the father.  There were, and still are, many benefits to being the firstborn.

Among the other places in Scripture where we see the relationship between the firstborn and younger brother is the parable of the prodigal son.  If you have never read Henri Nouwen's "Return of the Prodigal Son," it is a must read as he takes the perspective of each character within the book.  The most eye-opening and convicting section of the book for me was the section on the oldest brother.

Sure, the younger brother squandered his share of the fortune on hard living, gaining friends who cared for nothing more than his money, but grace meets us where we are when we come in repentance, which is exactly how the younger brother was returning to his father.  But it wasn't fair, how could he tell his father, "I wish you were dead because I want my share of the family fortune," squander all that his money, and then return and think that there was still a place at the table for him?  There are some limits to grace, aren't there?

It's always funny how we are happy and satisfied with grace when it is meted out upon us, but when it comes to extending it to someone else, they need to earn it.  Why does that never apply to us?  Do we earn grace?  If we did, would it still be grace?

Lately, I have noticed that the trend of the firstborn happens in all different places in life.  People are #1 for a while, they get everything that they want, all attention is focused on them, and then someone else comes along and they are not happy with sharing.  They have done everything that they are supposed to do and then the "younger brother" comes along, is extended grace, and they aren't happy about it.   How about me? they ask.  How about all that I have done?

Another parable that strikes a chord, or even a "grace" note, is in Matthew 20.  The workers are hired throughout the day and at the end of the day are all paid the same amount.  It just doesn't seem fair.  But the landlord did nothing other than what he promised, he paid them all exactly what he had promised, but the ones who had done more work thought it was unfair.

I'm a second born, but there have been plenty of times that I have acted like a firstborn.  I've been selfish and stubborn.  I have demanded things my way and cried out "foul" when things don't go the way that I want.  I want grace but when it comes to extending it elsewhere, I want people to earn it.  I have been the old brother, how about you?

The surprising thing to me is that some of us can go our whole lives and act as if we are only children.  Everything has been handed to us on a platter, served up fresh and on time, and when someone else comes along, cramping our style, we react harshly.  Why can't things be the way they were when it was just me?  I guess that basic principle of sharing that we were supposed to have learned in pre-school was somehow overlooked.

I don't want to act like the older son, it just kind of happens though.  I need to be reminded every day that grace happens, it's not earned, it's extended freely, otherwise, it wouldn't be grace.  Think about it.  Check out Nouwen's book.  Next time you start feeling lofty as if you deserved something, maybe you can remember exactly what you would deserve if it hadn't been for God's grace extended to you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


After nearly 4 years here at Blogger, I'm making a transition over to Wordpress.  Blogger has served me well, but I need more features to simplify my busy life.  Blogger has served me well over these nearly 4 years and I have been grateful for the opportunities and the readers that I have gained here.

In the interim, I will continue to post here and on the new blog as well.  I hope that if you have joined me and followed me here that you will make the transition with me.  I am grateful for the readers that I have had and the opportunities to share my life in words with people who are willing to read.


I got a good laugh the other day when someone saw some pictures from my wedding day and said that I had hardly aged.  Well, that was almost 12 years ago.  My wife was complaining the other day that I was the one who turned 40 but she was the one with all of the gray hair.  I've told her countless times in the last 2 years that I expect to wake up one morning to find that my hair has turned completely white (kind of like that old Crash Test Dummies song, remember?).

Age is kind of a funny thing though.  To be honest, I have felt that I have aged about 20 years in the last 2.  So much has happened to me.  I've lost both of my parents.  I've had another child.  I've been involved with a church split.  I've graduated seminary.  Losing my parents has sucked a significant amount of life out of me, but it's also grown me in leaps and bounds.  I am a very different person than I was 2 years ago.  I have changed.

Our experiences form and shape us.  I am a firm believer that God allows our circumstances to act as crucibles of sorts, causing us to be transformed by the heat of those circumstances as the heat is turned on.  They most likely aren't circumstances that we would choose for ourselves, I know that's the way that I feel.  I would not have wished these last 2 years on people that I don't like let alone people that I care deeply about.

It's kind of funny that the circles that I have run in for most of my life have equated age and years of experience as cause for expertise, wisdom, or knowledge.  While that might seem fairly accurate, I don't really think that it is.  It completely leaves the idea of personal experience out of the equation and discounts how traumatic and stressful experiences in life can do in short periods what it would normally take years to accomplish.  That's how I feel about my past few years.

In the church we make this error too often.  We look at someone who has been around for a number of years or been a "charter member" of our church and assume spiritual maturity or expertise.  The problem is, there hasn't been a significant change in them since they signed that charter so many years ago.  Chronological age cannot be equated with spiritual or emotional maturity.

I have friends whose heads have gone completely gray.  They're a few years younger than me.  I can't explain it.  My brother started going gray years ago and I thought that it was just a result of some of the difficult decisions that he had made earlier in life.  You know what they say about hard living, right?  Looking at me, it might seem as if I'm still "wet behind the ears" and lacking experience simply because of what you can see on the outside.  Don't always judge a book by its cover though.

While I don't know that I have come far enough in my own spiritual maturity to say that I am thankful for the last few years, I can say that I am thankful that God has used them to change and transform me.  I am bolder than I ever was before.  I am more compassionate than I ever was before.  I am kinder and gentler than I was before.  At the same time, I have been angrier than I have been in a long time.  I have been lonelier than I have been in a long time.  I have been sadder than I have been in a long time.  I guess there's two sides to every coin.

What experiences have you had that have shaped and changed you?  Have you resisted them or asked God to help you through them?  When we face difficult circumstances, we have a choice in how we respond.  How will you respond?

Monday, May 6, 2013


I had to go to the circuit court last week to take care of my dad's affairs in probate.  The woman who helped me was so kind and caring.  She made small talk with me and the process was much less painless than I had thought it would be.  I thanked her for making it simple and she told me I should thank my dad.

The process was painless until I got outside.  As I exited the building, an overwhelming feeling of loss came over me.  Every last thing that I do is exactly that, the last thing.  I am taking care of things for my dad for the last time and the gravity of the moment was intense.

Melancholics don't need glum and dreary days to feel pensive.  It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining.  It had actually been dreary earlier on, but the skies opened up and the sun shone down as I approached Williamsburg (was there a hidden message there for me?).  As I approached my car, I passed a statue of a Native American.  I put some of my stuff in the car and I wanted to stretch the moment out longer.  I wanted to sit in the sunshine, soak it in, sit in my sadness and let it wash over me for a few moments longer.

So, I went over to the statue to read the plaque underneath.  It was Powhatan, whom the plaque said was responsible for the survival of the first settlement at Jamestown (do you think his ancestors might be pissed?).  Here was this statue, life-sized, standing above all who would come within its vicinity.  A man whom we read about in history books, at least if we're from Virginia.  He played an integral part in survival for many who would go on to take advantage, abuse, and steal from his tribe and many others, or at least pave the way for more to come who would do those things.  But I digress.  Powhatan marks that spot and that statue will be there for a long time.

The contrasting picture was my visit to the cemetery later on.  As I approached the crypt where my parents are laid, the flowers were gone.  There was no evidence that just a week and a half ago that crypt had been opened to receive its second guest.  All that was there was a plate which still hadn't been completed.  Names.  Dates.  A verse.  A cross.  Praying hands.  A saying.  That's it.  No statue looming over all who would come near.  Not description of what these two people had done.

It seemed a little unjust to me.  I didn't know Powhatan.  How could I have?  He lived way before my time.  But I did know my mom and dad.  They had an influence on me and on many others.  Could we have said more on that plate than what we did?  Could we have given people a better picture of all that they had done?

Then I began to think, that's not the job of a grave plate.  That's my job.  That's my legacy, actually, it's their legacy living through me.  I will not forget.  I will remember.  I will live out that legacy and let others know the contributions that they made in my life, and so will others.  A statue is tall and cold, lifeless, unspeaking.  I am living and breathing, proclaiming, exemplifying what was invested into me by my parents.

There is no statue, but there is me, there are my children.  We are the monuments, the memorials of my parents as we live our lives through what they taught me, taught us.  My parents invested into people for the sake of Jesus Christ.  I invest in people for the same reason.  Christ has made a difference in my life, he made a difference in the life of my parents.  It would be a crime for me not to proclaim something that has had such a significant impact on me.  I am a living legacy.  If you want to know my parents, get to know me.  I can tell you stories, or better yet, I can live out what they passed on to me.  That's much better than anything a statue can do.